Python obfuscation

Mike Meyer mwm at
Sat Nov 12 06:34:51 CET 2005

My, we're about to get *seriously* off topic.

Steven D'Aprano <steve at> writes:
> On Fri, 11 Nov 2005 11:17:43 -0500, Mike Meyer wrote:
>>> I'd just like to make it non-trivial to make or use additional copies.
>> How do you do that without infringing my fair use rights?
> And that is the million dollar question. 
> So-called "intellectual property" is a government-granted monopoly which
> is not based on any principle of ownership. Ideas are not something you
> can own in any real sense (as opposed to the legal fiction), ideas are
> something that you can *have* -- but having had an idea, you can't
> naturally prevent others from having the same idea independently, or
> making use of your idea if you tell them about it -- and should you tell
> them your idea so that now they have it as well, that does not diminish
> the fact that you also have that idea.

It's a common misconception that ideas are protected by intellectual
property laws. They're not. Well, they're not supposed to be.

Copyright doesn't protect ideas, plot lines or similar
things. Copyright protects expression of those things in a tangible
medium. So if you read a book, then write a book with the same plot
line, you aren't in violation of copyright. Characters can be
protected by copyright, so you do have to be a bit careful about that.

Patents aren't supposed to protect ideas - they're supposed to protect
inventions. That's a fuzzy line, and the interpretation of 35 USC
Section 101 that allows the patenting of software has made it even
fuzzier. This broad interpretation has recently been used to patent
story lines <URL: >, which is
close enough to patenting ideas that I can't really tell the

> Given the absolute lack of real evidence that strong "intellectual
> property" laws are good for either innovation or the economy, and given
> the absolute artificiality of treating ideas as if they were scarce goods,
> I don't understand why the artificial monopoly rights of copyright holders
> are allowed to trump the natural rights of copyright users.

Because the copyright holders are organized, and have money to
influence congress that outweighs the funds that - since they're
generally unorganized - individual copyright holders have
available. So you get laws that help copyright holders enforce and
extend their copyright at the expense of the rights of the general

Mike Meyer <mwm at>
Independent WWW/Perforce/FreeBSD/Unix consultant, email for more information.

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